Irish acts fail to make Mercury shortlist


THERE WAS disappointment for Irish acts Sinéad O’Connor and Maverick Sabre as they failed to make the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize best British or Irish album of the year award.

Both had been tipped to feature on the 12-strong shortlist for the prestigious prize, which was announced yesterday in London, but true to form, the Mercury came up with another eccentric and largely unexpected bunch of contenders.

Perhaps the best-known name on this year’s list is the London rap/r ’n’ b artist Plan B. His album Ill Manors was praised by the judges as being “a brilliantly visceral soundtrack to an angry, troubling and harsh picture of life on the underside of London in 2012”.

However, the runaway bookies’ favourite for the award remains the Leeds art-rock band Alt-J for their acclaimed An Awesome Wave album.

Only two female acts make the shortlist (which is out of step with how well women are doing in music at the moment) – Lianne La Havas and Jessie Ware.

Richard Hawley gets his second Mercury nomination for Standing At The Sky’s Edge while Ben Howard, Sam Lee and Michael Kiwanuka also make the cut.

The shortlist is completed by The Maccabees, Django Django, Field Music and Roller Trio.

Despite the fact that he is the best-known artist on the list, Plan B is unlikely to win the overall award, which is announced on November 1st. His album has already been a huge commercial seller and the Mercury Prize usually rewards acts with a lower sales profile.

The award is worth £20,000 (€25,000) but more importantly, it acts as a huge boost to the winner’s profile. Alt-J remain the favourites to win.

Despite many nominations over the years, Irish acts have traditionally under-performed with the Mercury judges.

However, O’Connor and Maverick Sabre (and many critics felt both should have been on the list) are in good company by not being nominated this year as another big name, Kate Bush, also failed to make the shortlist.

The award, which focuses more on artistic merit than chart placing, has been in place since 1992 and is regarded as the music world’s equivalent to the Booker Prize. Like its literary counterpart, it often throws up controversial choices and is regularly lambasted for being “out of touch”.

There have been many surprising and controversial winners over the years, with the judging panel typically flying in the face of both public opinion and common sense in selecting the overall winner.

With Channel 4 now on board as a media partner, this year sees the Mercury going for a bit of “brand extension”. Before the November 1st award ceremony, all of the 12 shortlisted acts will be playing their nominated album live in its entirety at a series of Mercury Music Prize shows.

Record shops will be giving prominent display space to the shortlisted albums and, as always, there will be heated debates about the shortlist and the eventual winner.